Showing posts from June, 2019


Near Lake Eyasi in Tanzania there is an ancient tribe of about one thousand surviving members, the last hunter gatherers in the country. Ninety percent of their traditional lands have been encroached upon by neighboring pastoral tribes. There have been attempts by missionaries and the government to assimilate them, all of which have failed. It would be misleading to characterize them as "primitive" except in the respect that 90% of human history we have all been hunter gatherers. However, this is not a backwards society, but a thriving culture that wishes to continue to live in their traditional manner. They view "modern" society as detached, distracted and overstimulated; thereby "lost" from their roots and soul.


These photos and videos were produced for the Jimmy Nelson Foundation: I was part of a team of four photographers who spent four full days with a group of Hadzabe men, women and children. We witnessed and participated in their daily activities, and they were actively involved in our project. They wanted to see their culture portrayed accurately and positively so the outside world could understand their desire to continue to live in the bush as they have done for centuries. The mission of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation is to document indigenous cultures around the world, preserving them before globilization swallows them up, much like Edward Curtis did with the American Indians in the early 20th Century. They have produced two coffee table books (available on, and had numerous exhibits around the world. They were a perfect fit for me, as I have had a personal project for decades called  We were also …


On our first day in the camp they knew we were coming, but didn't quite know what to make of us and whether they could actually trust or relate to us. By the second day they had begun to relax and accept our presence:
By the third day they were as invested in our project as we were, determined to depict their culture and life style:


Hadzabe men spend a majority of their time hunting, or making their bows and arrows. Due to the shrinking size of their hunting grounds they often have to travel away from the group to reach the game. Their favorite prey is baboons which they shoot in the trees during a new moon. They also use blinds near watering holes. Many of the men wear impala skins, another favored large game. They will, however, shoot game large and small including birds and bush babies. They are extremely skilled and accurate with bows and arrows.  They spend a lot of time fashioning arrows, straightening them with their teeth, and adding feathers and metal arrowheads they get from the neighboring Datoga tribe. Their bows are from the same branches, but thicker and shaped after being heated and bent in the crook of a tree. They can have a pull of 100 pounds.
Arrowheads are made from old nails from the Datoga tribe, and are given to the Hadzabe in exchange for meat or honey, or through visitors like us, anthr…


There is a division of labor between the men and women. Men are the hunters and women are the gatherers. However, this is a very egalitarian society in which the women have as much power as the men. They determine when the group moves their camp based upon the supply of tubers and berries, as well as the water source.  The daily activities of the women include searching out tubers, and digging them out of the ground with sticks. In the photo below you will see a vine on the left side of the image. They look for that vine, the root of which is the tuber. The root can be eaten raw, peeling off the outer layer, or mashed and stewed. Another source of food was a variety of berries of which we saw three in abundance.
The women also go for water, which in this case was about a mile away in a dry river bed where Hayde-i, Shakwa's mother dug down to where there was water mixed with the sand.
As with all activities, all the women did everything together as a group, including the nursing b…


There are many babies, and in a Hadzabe mother's lifetime she is pregnant an average of six times. Mothers who are nursing typically go topless, and allow their infants to nurse on demand.  Unfortunately, there is a very high infant mortality rate with one in five not surviving. In addition, 46% of children don't live past fifteen years old. They succumb to diarrheal illnesses, malaria, and accidents which, without access to modern healthcare, can only be treated with bush medicine. Childcare is shared among all the women and teenage girls, and it was sometimes difficult to tell who was the mother versus an auntie or sister. The Hadzabe do not have a written language, and by our standards are illiterate. However, given their environment, they are very literate in the subtleties of plants and animals. It is noteworthy that all the neighboring pastoral tribes have at some point experienced famine, but the Hadzabe have never gone hungry. They are also the only tribe that don'…


This is N'Oye with the camp's one axe. It is shared among thirty people. We bought them another one. But the significance of this is that the axe is used to chop wood, dig out honey bee hives, collect branches for digging sticks, bows and arrows; and many other things. The same principal of sharing applies to the few knives I saw, as well as pots and pans, clothing,  jewelry; and all goods except perhaps the men's bows and arrows. The Hadzabe have very few possessions, which is practical in light of how nomadic they are (moving an average of six times a year). But there is no need to hoard or steal, and they place their value upon their relationships. They are rarely alone, except when it is necessary for hunting, and typically do everything together. Everyone is included. Let N'Oye explain: Listen for the click in their language (and his name)


I am available for presentations to educational groups on the Hadzabe, as well as tribal experiences on the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. I can be contacted at: For more of my work go to: Website:, Blog:,, Instagram @ Denver_Mike